Caitlin watched Ron for the rest of the day, hoping for some additional sign from him, but he gave no hint that anything unusual was going on. Instead, he concentrated on his acting, and made up for his poor performance that morning by turning in a virtually perfect afternoon. The director, who had expected to finish the day behind schedule thanks to the length of the first scene, congratulated them all when they finished early.
Most of the scenes they filmed involved Ron gloating over his hapless captives. In true voyeur fashion, he took a number of pictures and amateur video of them cowering under his hand, in the birdcage, and up against other familiar objects. In one case, he took the three women out and made them each stand next to a ruler, capturing the shot on video and film to prove to anyone watching that they really were only three inches tall. It turned out that only Tania actually reached the three-inch line, actually standing a tenth of an inch above it, while Caitlin's head was a couple of tenths below, and Randi didn't even reach the three-quarter mark.
It was close enough to three inches that Caitlin wouldn't argue the point, but it stood out as a marked reminder of just how tiny they really were.
Despite the speed at which the afternoon's takes seemed to fly by, they made no attempt to do any additional filming in what remained of the day. Instead, the director dismissed Ron, who departed hastily, with a single hesitant, backward glance at Caitlin as he did so.
She was wondering if that meant anything when the director abruptly sat down in a chair next to the three women. "I apologize if we've seemed rude or insensitive to you," he said, surprising them with his first friendly gesture. "I was wondering if there was anything you needed, or if we've forgotten anything in our haste to get this project underway."
Caitlin noticed that the man was still referring to the notes he was carrying, rather than speaking from the heart. She wondered if the others had picked up on this, but said nothing.
"Do we get a phone call?" Tania replied, only half in jest.
"We feel like we're prisoners," she went on. "We're on top of desks and tables all day, and at night all we have is that stupid dollhouse. There's nowhere to go and nothing else to do."
He laughed. "What would you like? Do you want me to take you to a movie? You can watch from my pocket. Just hope no one sees you. A three-inch-tall woman would be very hard to explain, you know."
"That's not what I mean," Tania replied with a hint of frustration. "Can we go anywhere else in the building? How about the phone? I'd like to call a couple of friends."
"Sorry, no," he replied. "While we've tried to keep this section of the building clean and free of vermin, I can't guarantee it's perfect. Even a bite from an ant could be fatal to you at your size, I'm afraid.
"As for a phone call, I can't allow that. Your small voices would be almost impossible to hear over the phone, for one thing. For another, we don't want anyone to learn about the miniaturization process. Remember your non-disclosure agreements. The less outsiders know about this technology, the better for everyone involved."
"But Ron knows," Caitlin interjected.
"Ron is sworn to secrecy," the man replied simply, and that seemed to settle the matter.
"I have a question," Randi put in. "What's the deal with those nutrition pills?"
"Sorry, I should have explained," the director replied. "There are certain metabolic processes that are disrupted when one is reduced to your size. You may have observed that you rarely feel hungry, and if you attempt to exercise, you will find you become out of breath quickly. It's harder for your body to metabolize food and water because, while you are much smaller in size, your body is considerably denser than you would expect."
"Can you explain that in English?" Tania demanded.
He gave the sigh of someone inexperienced in trying to explain scientific things to laymen. "Very well. It has to do with the cubic mass principle, but never mind about that now. Suffice to say, if your reduction in size were perfectly proportional in all ways, you'd be so light I could blow you across the table with a single breath."
"So what does that mean, exactly?" Randi asked. "And what does it have to do with the pills?"
"They provide you with all the nutrition you need for a full day," he explained. "Everything except bulk roughage, which the other food we’ve provided should take care of. Even so, you could get by without the cereal or canned goods for some time, as long as you eat a nutritional supplement each morning. You could never eat a normal-sized piece of food, however, as its molecules, having not been reduced, would be useless to your miniaturized cells.”
"Oh, I get it," Randi put in. "Osmosis would never work, would it? It would never make it through the cell wall."
This drew curious looks from Tania and Caitlin. "I remember something about that from school," Randi explained hastily.
"That’s essentially correct,” replied the director. He raised a bushy eyebrow at Randi, as if surprised by her knowledge. "There are certain other chemical processes that would also not function properly, and of course, even digested, the food would never pass through your intestinal lining, but you have the right idea."
Randi nodded in understanding, but the other two girls still looked baffled. The director went on with his explanation, not bothering to clarify further. “Anyhow, water usage is also more efficient in your small bodies. You should need no more than a water bottle a day. That's because you won't sweat as readily, and the water you do drink is used to better effect. I must caution you, however, not to try full-sized water. Even if you could swallow it, its molecules are more than twenty times larger than anything your bloodstream could absorb. It would probably not harm you, but eliminating it from your digestive tract would be difficult and painful."
"Nice of you to tell us this now," Tania said roughly. "You seem to have forgotten to include the safety manual when you shrunk us."
He went on as though she had not spoken. Caitlin got the impression he was on a roll, and seemed to be enjoying the chance to explain everything. She was not going to interrupt him, either. The information he was providing was as valuable as gold.
"As to breathing," he told them, "as I said, ordinary molecules are far too large for your body to absorb and use. They would not pass through your alveoli, for one thing, and even if they reached your bloodstream, your red blood cells would be unable to utilize them. Therefore, we implanted a device in your lungs that provides miniaturized air. Now, now, don't look so shocked! We agreed in the contract to provide whatever materials are needed to enable you to complete your roles, and we have lived up to our side of the bargain."
"You--you operated on us?" Caitlin was stunned.
"Not at all. After you fell unconscious under the miniaturizer, the device was inserted into your throat. Two devices, actually, one for each lung. They are rather like--well, I will not bore you with the details. They did not cause you any discomfort, I trust? I thought not. You would not even have known they were there had I not just told you.
"In any case, while nowhere near as sophisticated as the full-scale miniaturization device you saw yesterday, they are quite capable of reducing enough air for your breathing purposes. Any full-scale air molecules they do not reach are simply expelled in your next breath.
"There is one caveat, however. The devices can only work at a certain level of efficiency, after which they simply cannot miniaturize air any faster. Therefore, you should not exert yourselves too much or too quickly. If you do, you will rapidly become short of breath, no matter how good of shape you seem to be in. For example, I doubt one of you could make a complete run around this table without gasping for air. If you ever begin to feel that way, simply stop and rest, or you will suffocate. Over time, you should get used to this, and your lungs will adjust until you can perform the sort of athletic activities you were used to at normal size."
The others still looked shocked at learning they had tiny machines in their chests, but to Caitlin it explained much. Why she had only been able to jog short distances the night before, for example, and why climbing the electrical cord had taken so long despite its apparent simplicity.
"Now, before I retire for the evening, do you have any other questions?"
They shook their heads no. Apparently, the fact that they had been implanted with mechanical breathing devices was enough to quell their curiosity. The director carried them back to the dollhouse and left them there, still somewhat shocked.
With their thoughts on the director's words, they barely noticed the ride back in his gigantic hand. The fact that they were tiny was becoming ordinary, and things that the day before had frightened them were becoming routine.
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